Time is one of the few areas of life where we directly experience the wyrdness of Reality Department. The clock ticks onward, steadily, inexorably, yet to us time itself passes slowly or quickly according to what we’re doing – or rather, vanishes when we’re enjoying ourselves, and crawls past when we’re not!
Yet as time passes, where is Now? Where is that mythical country called The Future, for which we’re supposed to save, or to wait? Whatever happened to The Past? Where is the boundary between future, past and present? More weirdness…
Hiding from the wyrdness of time seems – for a while, at least – to allow us to play more responsibility-evasion games. There’s only Now, it seems so The Future will never come – which means that the damage we’ve caused to our habitat will never really affect anyone or anything. We hope… Or, in a less obvious evasive form, we can spend all our energy worrying about what we did or didn’t happenin The Past, or what might or might not happen in The Future, and hence never actually face what’s happening in the Now. Yet all these times do coincide at some point: eventually we do have to face our wyrd – and usually from some weird direction that we’d never expect.
Time is far from linear: and yet, like the wyrd itself, it has no boundaries. The same time interweaves between everyone, yet is also everywhere, and everywhen. Everywhere and everywhen is change, is in change, yet it’s still the same flow of time, still the same wyrd. Where does it come from? Where does it go?
For one answer, perhaps, we could try just watching ourselves. We may believe – or like to believe – that we present a constant character, a steady self, but it’ll be obvious to everyone else, even if not to ourselves, that that simply isn’t so. It’s true that there’ll be patterns to which we tend to return, time and time again, but our ‘I’ is changing, changing, all the time, in response to the ‘real’ world around us, to the imaginary worlds within, and to our body’s hungers and hormones. In which case, we might ask, which ‘I’ is the real ‘me’?
There’s a simple answer, but it’ll take a little time to get there. The main point is that this is true for everyone, not just for us. All those different short-term ‘selves’ that we experience – everyone else has them too. Shares them with us, more to the point… the same threads of the wyrd, weaving through everyone, everywhere, everywhen. We share all the same human traits as everyone else – in different ways, and to different extents, but still the same ones at that.
Which is where that otherwise incomprehensible concept of ‘archetypes’ comes in: one of the classic ways of understanding these many selves that thread through everyone is to dress them in mythic guise, and watch as they go through their paces. Like ideas – in fact as ideas, on a rather larger scale – archetypes have a kind of life of their own: so we need to be a little careful in how we let them act out in our own lives. But to the extent that we can do so, and still retain some kind of choice in how we experience them, archetypes allow us to understand how the same threads weave through everyone – and hence allow us to reach a genuine sympathy with others. That matters: that sharing is what makes us human, after all.
Yet, if we’re not careful enough, it’s easy to lose ourselves that way: we can get so lost in sympathy – or a crude copy of it – that we never get back to experience our own life, in Here and Now. When other people’s lives seem more glamorous or interesting or exciting than ours, there’s a strong temptation to wallow in that kind of pseudo-sympathy – a temptation which vast publishing empires foster as much as they can! Far harder, yet far more important, is to reach a state of empathy, in which we experience the other’s life, from their perspective, at the same time as experiencing our own life from ours (see the Sympathy and Empathy chapter in Wyrd Allies for more details). Slowly, carefully, with practice, we can extend that empathy until it encompasses ‘the everything’: we are the wyrd, interweaving with everything, everyone, everywhere, everywhen, yet at the same time still being the small ‘I’ sitting quietly in a corner, watching, being within life itself. It’s an interesting, empowering experience: and one in which we at last see that we do have the power of choice, in everything.
The experience of empathy shows us that Time simply is. It shows us the reality that time is Now, and everywhere; that the wyrd is everywhere, everywhen, and is also simply us. And it also answers that question about “which ‘I’ is me?”: we discover that ‘I’ is not that which changes, ‘I’ is that which chooses.
Choices are always a little twisted within the wyrd: our choices may bring results in weeks to come, or in years gone by, or be experienced by others around us rather than by ourselves. Time can be somewhat weird at times… but given that it is weird – an aspect and expression of the wyrd – it’s wisest to learn to work with its weirdnesses, and accept it for what it is!